On Monday, The Seattle City Council unanimously approved Resolution 31637, which calls on City departments to convene a prisoner and community corrections re-entry work group to coordinate and strengthen the City’s efforts to assist re-entry.
Councilmember Bruce Harrell sponsored the resolution to help formerly-incarcerated people gain access to jobs once they’ve paid their debt to society. The work group will identify opportunities for more effective coordination with other criminal justice agencies and develop a set of additional recommendations the City can implement to facilitate prisoner re-entry and remove unnecessary barriers to employment and housing.
The Resolution also re-affirms the City’s support for the Certificate for Restoration of Opportunity Program (CROP). CROP will help individuals with criminal histories gain access to jobs that require a vocational license. Currently, a person with a criminal record cannot attain jobs in more than 90 career paths that require vocational licenses, including barbers, commercial fishers, or dental hygienists. CROP would allow an individual to file for a civil motion certifying that the required time had passed, without any new arrests or convictions, and had met all the terms of their sentence. Councilmember Harrell intends to pursue creation of a Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity if the State Legislature does not pass one in the upcoming legislative session.
In 2015 approximately 2.2 million people are incarcerated nationally – a 500% increase in the last 30 years. Locally, 16,675 adults were incarcerated in Washington State prisons and almost 12,618 people per day are placed in local jails with 2,800 being jailed in King County. In 2014 about 20 percent of the almost 8,000 individuals released from Washington State Department of Corrections were released in King County. People of color are disproportionately represented among those released from jail in King County; a 2003 reentry study demonstrated that while African-Americans were only six percent of King County’s population, 41 percent of people released from DOC were African-Americans, and while Latinos were only six percent of King County’s population, 18 percent of people released from DOC were Latinos.
“We must set a new course to address the failed policies from mass incarceration,” said Harrell, primary sponsor of the legislation. “The two biggest barriers for individuals re-entering society are jobs and housing. Collectively, we have failed on these two fronts and as a result, the cycle of re-incarceration often repeats itself. The failure to help these individuals has rippled through our society, impacting families, our schools, public safety, and our community. Council will work with our regional partners and lead on this effort in 2016.”
Council added $136,000 in the 2016 budget to support work on Zero Detention and the Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity Program.